Budget conference: Local fire stations set to receive millions for vital infrastructure projects

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY, 2018 Firefighters spraying down fire during firefighting training exercise
More than $10 million has been set aside for local fire station infrastructure.

The Legislature has agreed on funding the renovation and construction of several local fire stations across the state, including $4 million in appropriations for House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ home district in Tampa Bay.

The funding, agreed to in the latest bump offer from the Senate, sets aside more than $10 million spread among local stations, addressing the need for infrastructure improvements across the localities.

St. Pete Beach Fire Station 22 is set to receive $2 million to complete a full demolition and reconstruction of the station, which serves St. Pete Beach’s historic Pass-a-Grille beach district and surrounding locations, according to appropriation requests. The facility is described as an “aging, end-of-life facility,” which will be replaced by a “modern structure equipped with the proper tools to meet calls for service expectations in a highly-trafficked, densely populated tourist destination.”

The Legislature also agreed to provide $2 million for Palm Harbor Fire Station 68 so the department can construct a new station. Specifically, the funds will be used to “design, engineer, and construct a new fire station.” The project is already receiving $3.5 million from local government and another $500,000 from a private donor, according to the appropriation request.

The department has already met with Pinellas County to review locations, building requirements, and stormwater runoff concerns. The district has also “contracted with an architect, and engineers to determine the feasibility and cost of the project.”

The most costly appropriation is for the Dixie County Emergency Operations Center, which is planning on adding a fire station with $3.74 million from the state, agreed to in both budget offers. The center plans to spend the appropriation on “design, permitting and construction of the expansion of the existing Dixie County Emergency Operations Center by adding a 9,700 square-foot fire station.” That fire station would include four engine bays, multiple offices and bunk rooms.

Proponents say this project is important for the health of county residents. According to the request, Dixie County does not have a 24-hour hospital for emergency care.

“Citizens rely heavily on trained emergency response for stabilization and most tourists aren’t aware there is no hospital when they come to camp in this area. Many of our citizens live over 90 minutes from a 24-hour hospital with an emergency center,” the request states. “This project will allow for manned stations where there are currently none.”

Dixie County’s funding doesn’t stop there, either. The current budget offer also appropriates $3.55 million to construct an additional 11,000-square-foot fire station complete with engine bays, bunk rooms, common areas, parking area and stormwater retention area to meet the need for emergency assistance.

“Response times will be significantly reduced to stakeholders in Dixie County, thereby increasing survivability, and better overall outcomes for aforementioned stakeholders involved in emergent events,” the request states. These outcomes will be measured by the Insurance Service Office and National Fire Protection Association 1710.

Panama City Beach Fire Station 32 is also set to cash in, with the chambers agreeing to direct $3.6 million to fund construction of a new fire station on the east end of city limits. The new station would be between 6,000 and 8,000 square feet and would replace the current station, which stands at 2,000 square feet.

According to the request, the current fire station was constructed in 1986 and “is woefully inadequate at the present time,” and “has inadequate living quarters for the staffing levels now required and is not well suited to house the growing number of female firefighters being hired.” Additionally, the current station is not storm rated and must be evacuated during hurricanes.

Local government has agreed to pitch in $900,000 for the fire station as well, according to the request.

The proposed Holley-Navarre Fire District Station 44 is also set up to receive $1.5 million for construction of a 7,200 square-foot fire station and training facility. However, the offers propose different funding sources, with the House opting to fund the station via state and other trust funds, and the Senate pushing to fund it with general revenue.

The Holley-Navarre Fire District has owned a piece of property since 2014 that it has planned to build a station on, according to an appropriation request. The new fire station would “provide a faster, more efficient response to 33% of the citizens in the Holley, Navarre, and Harper communities, as well as provide quicker mutual aid response to emergencies on Eglin Air Force Base and to volunteer departments.”

Despite agreement on those stations, the House and Senate are still at odds on the amount of funding to provide to others.

While the House has offered $1 million from general revenue funds to allocate to the Graceville Fire Department, the Senate is insisting on $2.2 million in its bump offer for the project from state and other trust funds. The original appropriation requests for the project ask for $2.2 million.

The funds would be used to replace a fire station in the city of Graceville that has become inhabitable because of the damage and destruction of Hurricane Michael in late 2018, according to the request. Since Hurricane Michael, the city has been using the civic center to house fire station staff.

One project that the two chambers completely disagree on is the construction of the Ponce De Leon Fire and Rescue Department, with the House providing $782,700 in funding and the Senate excluding the project altogether.

The appropriations request for the project originally asks for $1.6 million in order “to replace the shed that has been in use that was built in the 1970’s.”

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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